Neurofeedback is the best available front-line treatment for ADHD: What is the evidence for this claim?
The primary characteristic of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is impaired executive functioning and attentional processes. These impairments involve difficulty in self-regulation which is often seen as attentional difficulties, impulsive behaviors, and hyperactivity. Furthermore, these impairments typically cause difficulty in school, social, and home settings, particularly in the organizational skills required to function efficiently in daily life. ADHD is the most common diagnosis given to school-age children in the United States, occurring in about 11% of children, and occurring more frequently in boys than girls. Medication, behavior therapy (e.g. neurofeedback training), or a combination of the two, are the most typical approaches to adolescent ADHD. About 70% of children diagnosed with ADHD are prescribed stimulant medication, however, this may not be the most safe and effective approach. The present article argues neurofeedback training for the treatment of ADHD is at least as effective as stimulant medication and bypasses many of the risks associated with pharmacological intervention, thusly making the claim that neurofeedback is the best treatment method for adolescents with ADHD.
Pigott & Cannon (2014) summarize the criticisms of stimulant medication as a treatment for adolescent ADHD that primarily resulted from follow-up assessments conducted in two heavily funded studies by the National Institute of Mental Health. In general, these studies demonstrated that after two and three years medication use was associated with increased symptom severity. This outcome is opposite to what is intended and expected with stimulant medication compliance in ADHD patients. For more details regarding criticisms of stimulant medication for treatment of ADHD, read the full article linked below. Neurofeedback training, unlike medication, teaches patients skills involving self-regulation such that they can optimize their own brain functioning. The use of neurofeedback in treatment of ADHD was first investigated in the 1970s, demonstrating significant success without the use of medication. The efficacy of neurofeedback training in ADHD has been continually supported in research over more recent years, adding to the now strong support for this treatment modality. Furthermore, research has never shown neurofeedback training to lead to negative effects, unlike stimulant medication. In general, research has demonstrated neurofeedback training to be equally as effective as stimulant medication. Superior to medication, those who participate in neurofeedback training are able to sustain their improvements for 6-months after termination of treatment. Also unlike medication, ADHD patients that participate in neurofeedback often experience improvements in academic performance. Significant research has supported the claim that neurofeedback training is a superior intervention to medication in the treatment ADHD, in terms of immediate academic performance post-treatment, lack of adverse effects, and long-term maintenance of improvements.